Thursday, May 22, 2008

London Calling?

Here is (at least partly) how I came to be in London in the first place, and how I came to leave it again:

I grew up wanting to be a missionary. It didn't hurt--though it very well could have given another set of parents--that my parents were missionaries and church planters and pastors (sometimes at different times, sometimes all at once). I also grew up wanting to live in England. I thought the two "wants" were mutually exclusive, and then one amazing season (around my senior year of college and for some time thereafter) I discovered they weren't. I went to England on a two-year commitment, but I said early on, "I have a feeling I'll be here five years."

At the end of my first term, I really finally settled in, and, having received "indefinite leave to remain" from the British government, I decided to remain indefinitely. I was queuing up for dual citizenship. I was thinking about transferring my church membership to the church I attended and worked in, in London. Then I went back to the US for another furlough.

While I was there, I had a number of conversations with people who didn't even know each other, and who, though all Christians, have very different approaches to God. (Well, I mean, they all approach through Jesus, but their respective "styles" are different.) These conversations shook me up a little and started to make me wonder if I was supposed to leave London instead of staying there. Three days before I was to return, I was overcome with a sense of utter dread at returning to my life there, that I never really could explain. I decided to go back, take six months, and see if I could figure out what God was really telling me to do.

I guess it depends on your level of cynicism as to how you interpret things, and which things you decide are open to interpretation. It's probably also partly dependent, if you're looking for God's leading, on what kind of church you affiliate with. I've affiliated with a pretty broad range, so when I got back to London, I was bombarded with intimations in my Scripture readings, words of counsel from my friends, dreams of my own and dreams of my friends and colleagues, strong senses of direction. Eventually I decided that, though things were tremendously better for me than they had been immediately before I had left London, I was being called to move away. It was okay that I was leaving when things were good again; I always think that it's better to leave on an up-note than in shame or high dudgeon. On the other hand, it was hard to leave, too--all those friendships that had been forged, all those prayers that had been prayed, all that learning and growing. Not to mention the urban environment and the cosmopolitan nature of the place. I knew I'd never find another place like it. I haven't.

But the sense to leave seemed unequivocal. I even believed I had been directed as to a specific date of departure, which was appropriate, because the date of my arrival had also been significant. And so it was that in May 2002, I moved back to the USA. I had lived in London for five and a half years.

To be continued . . .


Christianne said...

wow, jenn. i've always wondered how you came to live in london, and how you came to leave it. i figured it was outlined somewhere deep in your blog archives and that i'd have to fish it out at some indefinite point in the future. but here it is, laid out plain and clear for me without the extra work! :)

i can't believe you were granted "indefinite leave to remain" from the British government! that's, like, such a dream of mine. so cool.

ergh, this post hurt my heart for you, too. what's up with making me all emotional about your journey these days??

Stacey said...

I love reading these stories, Jenn, thanks for sharing them!! And congrats on being an auntie too - very cute indeed!